SINGAPORE - Countries are retreating from globalisation in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, but Singapore's workers and businesses can tap opportunities even in a less connected world, said Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing on Sunday (June 14).
This is because the Republic has its own intangible strengths which are not easily replicated elsewhere, including its connectivity as a trade hub. There are also plans in place to invest in the next generation of infrastructure, as well as to develop people and businesses, he said.
And while the pandemic has led to more protectionist barriers being erected between countries, Singapore must resist these pressures, said Mr Chan.
"A less-connected world means a poorer world and fewer opportunities for all. A less-connected Singapore means fewer and poorer-quality jobs for us," he said in the fourth of six national broadcasts by ministers on Singapore's post-coronavirus future.
Nevertheless, Singapore has developed resilience, such as by building networks and diversifying supply sources and markets.
"Even in a more protectionist, less-connected world, we can still make a living and more," he added.
Speaking at PSA Singapore's Pasir Panjang Terminal Building 3, Mr Chan also said that Singapore will press on to build connectivity infrastructure to reinforce the country's position as a hub for business, finance, trade and data flows.
"We will work to stay connected with the world even as the world threatens to fragment and regress towards protectionism. Despite our size, we can show the way if we have good ideas," he said.
The immediate focus is on jobs, given that the pandemic-induced downturn has led to falling incomes and job losses among workers, with layoffs expected to rise in the coming months.
A key initiative is the creation of 100,000 jobs and training opportunities in the coming year across various sectors including healthcare and early childhood education.
"We may well need to create more jobs if the situation worsens," he added.
Mr Chan noted that even after Singapore reopens its economy, some companies will need to change their business models. Support will be given to help them, he said, such as in hiring and training graduates and mid-career workers in advance.
Even as Singapore tackles the immediate challenges, efforts will be made to invest in the country's intangible strengths, infrastructure and its people and businesses.
Mr Chan noted that investors have chosen to locate and expand their businesses here over the years because Singapore is open and connected to the world, is a trusted brand, is a united and stable society, and has a skilled workforce.
During the Covid-19 crisis, Singapore has also built trust by choosing not to impose export restrictions or nationalise foreign investments.
For example, Singapore kept its production lines open for global supply chains, including critical materials for surgical masks.
"In uncertain times, our trusted brand counts for even more. Businesses have noticed," said Mr Chan. "When they make their next investments to diversify their global production bases, we will be in the running."
Partnerships with other countries in the form of trade agreements will also open up new opportunities for businesses and "signal to the world our confidence and determination to press on with regional economic integration", he added.
Infrastructure projects, including Changi Airport Terminal 5 and the Tuas Mega Port, will also offer opportunities for the future.
The national broadcasts by Singapore leaders will start from 7.30pm on the following dates:
June 7: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
June 9: Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong.
June 11: Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean.
June 14: Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing.
June 17: Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for Social Policies Tharman Shanmugaratnam.
June 20: Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat.
All speeches will be televised in the four official languages. Or watch it on Gov.sg website, Facebook page, YouTube channel and Twitter.
Meanwhile, the twin efforts of digitalisation and internationalisation will help to transform a generation of businesses and people to thrive in the digital world.
Businesses can access new markets and form industry partnerships beyond local shores.
People can learn new skills and even gain the confidence to launch a business, such as in the case of Carousell's co-founders, who spent a year in Silicon Valley in the United States.
More will be done to boost industry partnerships and intensify the overseas exposure of Singaporeans, said Mr Chan.
"We must enable every Singaporean, young and old; every business, big and small, to go digital and thrive."
For example, the Singapore Tourism Board is helping hospitality companies and event organisers to overcome the collapse in travel demand by using digital tools.
He also noted that the Economic Development Board has captured $13 billion of investment commitments in the first four months of this year. This is despite the uncertain outlook in the next few years.
"As you can see, there are still many opportunities for us, but we must be on our toes," said Mr Chan.
"Survival favours not the strong, but the agile."